Start a Co-op

The information below is extracted from Co-operatives UK’s website. We recommend you log onto the following link for information and free advice from

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Many people and their communities are creating new co-operative businesses. These new businesses work in everything from health care to housing, wind farms to web design and funeral care to fishing. They might be run by customers, employees or the local community.

The process of creating these new co-operatives businesses is called start-up. Many people refer to the very early stages of the process as “pre-start-up” but for the purposes of this website we have taken start-up to cover the whole process.

Start-up process divided up into several stages:

  1. Early days – the idea.
  2. Who are we? – deciding who will have what relationship with the organisation.
  3. Sharing the load – deciding who is going to do what in the start-up process.
  4. Putting flesh on the bones – working up the idea.
  5. Show me the money – how are you going to finance it?
  6. Getting organised – formalising the structure.
  7. Are we nearly there yet? – checking back with the community.
  8. Come and join us – recruiting more people.
  9. Opening day – everything finally in place.
  10. One year already – things you need to do to keep going.

Things to think about before starting a co-operative

Remember, a co-operative is a business. Before you spend too much time energy and money on your co-operative idea, and certainly before you involve business advisors, you need to have considered the following questions:

Questions about the people involved:

  • Who will be involved and how?
  • Particularly who will own and control the co-operative?
  • Do you need to involve more people now?
  • Do these people exist?
  • Why are they involved?
  • What is their motivation?
  • Does everyone want exactly the same thing, and if not is this a problem?

Answers to these questions will give you and anyone who helps you a good idea as to what the structure of your co-operative will be.

Questions about your business idea:

  • What is the co-operative going to do?
  • What is the need, product or service?
  • Is there a demand for it?
  • Is anyone else already doing it?
  • Can you supply the need, product or service competitively?
  • Have you thought about how you are going to finance the start-up?

Answers to these questions will allow you to see whether there may be a workable business idea here and whether it is worth putting more work into the idea. You may need to refine the idea or even return back to the drawing board. You may also discover at this point that what you intend to do would be more suited to a voluntary or community group, which whilst it could be run co-operatively would not be a co-operative business.

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